The Pastry School Diaries: Bready, Set, Dough!

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Pastry & Baking Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences!


It was a short week of classes this week because of Columbus Day, and I was greeted on Tuesday night with our second midterm. While each final exam includes a written and practical element, the midterms are only written. It covered all of the bread baking basics, and I’m feeling quite confident about how I did!


The remainder of class was spent making and rolling out croissant dough (stay tuned for next week when we bake them!) and baking various types of brioche.

Pain au Raisin

Brioche loaf sprinkled with decorating sugar

Chocolate brioche loaf sprinkled with a mixture of granulated and light brown sugar


Although brioche and croissant baking is a fairly different process than that of regular breads, this entire unit has made me rethink my pastry career aspirations. In the beginning, I was so excited to learn–and fall in love with–the bread baking technique. I still am learning something new in every lesson, but while I originally imagined finishing this unit with an aspiration to open the next Balthazar, I am now starting to think my passion lies somewhere else. Maybe it’s in our third module, cakes, fillings and icings. Or maybe my passion lies in the basics, like custards, meringues and ice cream. Luckily, being only a third of the way through my program, I have plenty of time to decide!


Check back next week for a croissant update!

The Pastry School Diaries: Knead a Change

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Baking & Pastry Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences!


As someone who considers pizza one of the major food groups, I never thought these words would come out of my mouth: I never want to see another piece of bread ever again.



Maybe that’s an exaggeration, but we’ve been on bread overload in class lately, and despite it being some of the best bread I’ve ever tasted, it’s become hard to even look at. Just look at my freezer. Who needs this much bread???




Luckily, we’re wrapping up the bread portion of this unit and moving on to sweet doughs, like croissants, brioche and doughnuts. I’ve never been more excited to see a tray full of fresh doughnuts, hot out of the fryer.


What I am thankful for, however, is what I’ve learned about the not-so glamorous process of baking bread. It requires a lot of time, patience and practice. It is truly a labor of love, and an acquired skill. I’m not quite sure if it’s my forte, but I had a lot of fun trying my hand at rolling and forming bagels and pretzels. They tasted delicious, nonetheless!



Stay tuned for more carb-loaded updates!

The Pastry School Diaries: The Best-Kept Secrets of Bread Baking

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Baking & Pastry Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences!

One of the best parts about having a renowned bread baker as your bread unit instructor? Besides his world of knowledge and years of experience, he has an unending supply of tips that you won’t find in any cookbook. Every day as I come into class, I can expect to learn something new about the art of bread baking, and not just about the technique. Whether it’s a secret last step to making perfectly textured dough or a traditional British recipe that differs from its American counterpart, Chef Sim has shared a wealth of information that has infinitely improved my creations. And now I can share that information with you!



Tip 1: Bake your bread until the crust is extremely dark

It may even look burnt in some places, but trust me, it’s not. As “The Prince of Darkness” has taught us, a darker crust enables a deeper flavor all the way though the bread. Your crust should have a full ombre effect of coloring–from very dark to golden brown. His bread is the real deal.


Tip 2: Don’t add butter or oil to your focaccia dough

Doing so only inhibits the gluten and rising process. Instead, coat both sides of your dough in olive oil and bake it on a sheet pan. This will create a crispy, buttery crust and leave the inside of the bread light and airy.


Tip 3: When making focaccia, ice water is your best friend

Just before baking your dough, dip your fingers in ice water. Make impressions with your fingers in the dough. Repeat twice. I think some sort of magic happens, but the dough bakes up beautifully light with lots of holes. Just the way you want it.


Tip 4: When it comes to making cinnamon rolls, less is more!

This week we made Chelsea Buns, which are quite similar to a cinnamon rolls, except the filling is a mixture of cinnamon, brown sugar and currants. Rather than glazing them with a thick icing how we do in the states, the British recipe simply calls for a generous sprinkling of sugar. And let me tell you, on pastry this good, no icing necessary!


I hope you’ve taken away a tip or two that can be helpful in your home baking! Check back next week for more fun tips and tricks.

The Pastry School Diaries: Rising to the Occasion

Editorial Assistant Lauren Katz is enrolled in the part-time Baking & Pastry Arts program at New York City’s Institute of Culinary Education. Follow her each week as she shares her sweet experiences!


I was excited to start our bread unit for various reasons: for the variety (sweet! savory! croissants! pizza!), the experience (I’ve never made bread before) and of course, for that amazing aroma of a freshly baked loaf. We’re only two days in, but my expectations have already been exceeded. We’ve baked four different types of bread in seven different shapes, I’ve learned about different yeast and rising methods and I’ve taken home more bread than I know what to do with. The cherry on top? I’m learning from the best of the best, Chef Sim Cass, dean of the bread baking program at ICE and founding baker of Balthazar Bakery.


On our first day, we made a one-step bread, which means you don’t need to let the yeast ferment overnight. You simply add it to warm water, add your flours and salt, mix it, knead it, let it rise and bake it. The end product is a light, fluffy and super flavorful French loaf.


Whole wheated French rolls


We also made a starter, which is a a fermented mix of flour, water and yeast that you add to the dough you’re making. This causes the dough to ferment, and fermentation equals flavor! Some bakers have had the same starter for years (Balthazar’s has had theirs for 38!). Our starter was only a day old but it still imparted tons of flavor into the finished product. Imagine what a few more decades could do!


Whole wheated farmhouse bread with pecans and raisins


A sliced walnut loaf to share with the office


It’s a good time to be one of my co-workers! Check back next week for more bread goodness.

Creative Loafing

To beat the clock and get beautiful bread in no time, you’ve gotta bake smart. Our recommendation: Start with store-bought dough (it’ll be our little secret!), then shape and flavor it how you like. These treats are pretty enough for any breadbasket.



 Red Onion Pinwheels are the savory sister of the cinnamon bun and full of swirls of flavor.


Try these Salty Sticks – that remind us of pretzels! — when you’re tired of your average breadstick!


Grapes add a bit of sweetness in our Grape Focaccia, which is a traditional pillowy Italian bread.


Get more homemade bread recipes!